But the return of the Jews to Palestine is an astonishing thing, something that manifestly cannot be disconnected from the events that will ultimately occur in that area. Indeed, we need only think for a moment about the sheer improbability of the whole thing to begin to see its miraculous character. What other nation has ever come back into existence as a sovereign state more than two thousand years after its disappearance? The empire of the pharaohs is gone. Nobody thinks seriously of resurrecting the ancient Babylonian Empire (although the late Saddam Hussein liked to strut about as if he were some sort of Babylonian monarch). Mussolini tried to resuscitate the glories of the Roman Empire but ended his career hanging upside down, revealed to all as a tyrant and a buffoon. And Hitler’s “Third Reich,” claiming to restore the lost Roman Empire itself along with the Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne, was supposed to last a thousand years. It managed, though, to survive only twelve—and those twelve years were cruel, barbarous, and utterly fraudulent.
But little Israel—the footpath of the ancient world, walked over and trodden down by every army that moved along the King’s Highway, deprived for many years of self-rule and then finally scattered to the four corners of the globe, persecuted and butchered as perhaps no other people in human history—little Israel maintained itself as a people and is now reborn as a state. What is more, its ancient language, Hebrew, has come back to life as a language of literature, business, and science. (Ancient languages are not always so easily maintained. In Ireland, attempts to keep the old Gaelic tongue alive are failing even as I write.) The mere fact that Israel is a commonplace subject of newspapers, magazines, and television news should not be allowed to obscure for us the miraculous fact of its sheer existence.
With all of this, however, there still remain steps toward the Second Coming that we are not yet authorized to take. Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have consistently taught that the time to take the gospel to the Jews has not arrived. “Jerusalem,” said Brigham Young in 1854, “is not to be redeemed by the soft still voice of the preacher of the gospel of peace.” Why? Because, he said, the Jews had rejected Christ and Christ’s gospel as it was taught by the early apostles and prophets and were now destined to be “the last of all the seed of Abraham to have the privilege of receiving the New and Everlasting Covenant… It is impossible to convert the Jews, until the Lord God Almighty does it.” Speaking in 1857, Wilford Woodruff recalled the many times during his travels when he had seen Jews pray for their return to Jerusalem and for the coming of their Messiah. “When I have seen this,” that great missionary said,
my soul has been filled with a desire to proclaim unto them the word of God unto eternal life, but I knew I could not do this, the time had not come, I could not preach to them… They do not believe in Jesus Christ; there is an unbelief resting upon them, and will until they go home and rebuild Jerusalem and their temple more glorious than at the beginning, and then by and by, after this Church and kingdom has arisen up in its glory, the Saviour will come to them and show the wounds in his hands and side …and then their eyes will begin to open… and they will for the first time receive Jesus Christ as their Saviour, they will begin to comprehend where they have been wandering for the space of two thousand years.
It is at least partly this sense that the time has not yet come for the preaching of the gospel to the Jewish people that underlies the Church’s promises made in connection with Brigham Young University’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies.
There are other things that have yet to occur with regard to Palestine or Israel. The ancient King David evidently lost his exaltation as a result of transgression, so his blessings and role are to be given to another. “The Priesthood that he received,” said the Prophet Joseph Smith, “and the throne and kingdom of David is to be taken from him, and given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his lineage.” Several of the ancient prophets seem to have known of this important figure. “Alas!” wrote Jeremiah,
For that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it. For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him: But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely.
The prophet Zechariah used a man by the name of Joshua, the son of Josedech, as a visual aid to make his point:
Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH…and he shall build the temple of the Lord: Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne.
Hosea appears to have known of a Davidic king who would follow a period of apostasy, a period in which the Israelites would have neither a functioning state nor a functioning priesthood.
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.
The prophet Ezekiel, writing from Babylonian exile, knew a great deal about this figure of the latter days.
Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all… [I] will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.
The emphasis on unity is noteworthy. “Ephraim shall not envy Judah,” writes Isaiah, “and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.” “They shall be no more two nations,” declares Ezekiel, “neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.”
 Journal of Discourses 2:142.
 Journal of Discourses 4:232.
 History of the Church 6:253; compare Doctrine and Covenants 132:39.
 Jeremiah 30:7-9.
 Jeremiah 23:5-6.
 Zechariah 6:12-13; compare 3:8.
 Hosea 3:4-5.
 Ezekiel 37:21-28.
 Isaiah 11:13; Ezekiel 37:22.
Posted from St. George, Utah